By Marc Snetiker
Updated October 14, 2016 at 07:54 PM EDT
Warner Bros.; Courtesy Everett collection

Try to describe Ben Affleck’s new movie The Accountant in three words, and it’s nearly impossible. Hell, even five, 10, or a whole sentence doesn’t quite do justice to describing the genre-bending thriller from director Gavin O’Connor, which stars Affleck as an accountant with autism who moonlights as a dangerous, Robin Hood-like operative for criminal organizations.

Fortunately, you’re not alone—even O’Connor (Warrior) had trouble nailing down exactly what kind of story he was telling. “That was my greatest fear when I woke up every morning, in all honesty, in executing the movie, because we were walking such a razor’s edge of tone,” he tells EW. “It’s such an odd movie, man.”

O’Connor leans heavily into the quirkiness of the film’s high-concept (yet thoroughly enjoyable) premise. “You go to those flashbacks of [Affleck’s character] Chris as a child, and they’re heavy and sobering, and there’s some pretty intense violence in the movie, though I hope it’s not gratuitous,” he says. “And then, the way he eliminates people is as quickly and efficiently and mathematically as possible, and in my first test screening, people laughed and cheered and really liked how he didn’t break a sweat. He’s like a shark — he just keeps moving on to the next, and people in a weird way enjoy watching people like that.”

He continues: “The overriding thing for me is that I just wanted the movie to be fun. I knew I was dealing with themes that were very serious, but I wanted to handle certain things with a light touch.”

Part of that came from casting Anna Kendrick as Chris’s eventual sort-of love interest, Dana, an accountant who first notices the corporate money leak which Chris is called in to plug. Given Kendrick’s comedy roots, O’Connor felt she was integral to keeping the film from straying too dark. “I knew Anna would bring a certain levity to the film and an honesty,” says the director. “I believed she would connect with Chris, and would be able to have a little bit of X-Ray vision to see deeper into this guy. I would believe she could be touched by this guy, and he, by her.”

“The casting, the way we staged scenes, the way we developed the characters… we tried to keep it just honest and truthful,” he adds. “And pray we got it right.”

The Accountant is out now.

The Accountant (2016)

  • Movie
  • R
  • 128 minutes
  • Gavin O'Connor